There was magic in Madurai G.S. Mani’s raga explorations. As always.

Rare is the artist who takes up an over-used raga and is able to bring in innovativeness and make it sound refreshingly different. Octogenarian vocalist Madurai G.S. Mani achieved it with consummate ease.

His Bhairavi alapana began with the raga’s signature phrases but soon came some not-so-common combination of notes that spiced up the raga. Syama Sastri’s ‘Sari Evaramma’ flowed like a river in full spate and the only regret was that there was no niraval, due to paucity of time.

Earlier, Mani sang a soothing Bhavapriya, a raga that has semblances of Subhapanthuvarali and Thodi. Fortunately, for a man of his years, the singer’s voice is strong in timbre and he used the asset to his full advantage, dwelling neatly on the higher notes.

The vocalist followed the raga with a composition of his own — he has composed over 300 songs in Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu — somewhat modelled on the style of Dikshitar. ‘Amba Parameswari Akhilaandeswari’ in Sanskrit sounds like one that’s worth popularising.

The Bhavapriya piece was followed by Mohanam and Madhyamavathi and again they were Mani’s own compositions, but the veteran’s penchant for singing his own songs evoked murmurs of protest outside the hall. Mention must be made of ‘Janani Jayapara’ in Madhyamavati, a brilliant composition in Sanskrit, which was tailed by bountiful swaras — a happy departure from Mani’s usual limited-swara style. Tucked in-between Madhyamavati and Bhairavi was Poochi Iyengar’s Sudhhasaveri piece, ‘Samaja Varada.’

Delhi Sunderrajan (violin) and K.V. Prasad (mridangam) accompanied Mani, and being seasoned accompanists, had no difficulty in providing sufficient nourishment to the concert.